We are facing an immense challenge around the world. Everyone has to realise the danger and stay at home and practice strict hygiene. Thousands are dying- friends, relatives and many die alone. We are people with rational intelligence. Everyone is important and equal in dignity and rights and we have to respect all and give help and support so more will be saved.
During lock-down, together with family members, we can do practical tasks, forming bonds and showing others we care for them and love them. We can call our parents and tell them that we love them and thank them for giving us life and education and support so we can live a healthy meaningful life. Parents should call their children to say that they love them, too. In these challenging times, we all need to come closer in spirit with each other when we must practice social distancing.
There is economic damage and loss and many jobs are gone. Government can provide help. Let us consider ourselves more fortunate than the abandoned, unemployed, migrant workers, Filipinos among them, on the streets of Dubai and Doha or locked down in the industrial area of Doha. There, the COVID-19 infection is spreading out of control among the thousands of workers locked in and guarded by the military in their confined, overcrowded quarters. There is no hospital there. There will be a high death toll, and no one will know how many. The World Cup will be played over the bodies of the dead. For those too in other Middle Eastern countries, the Philippine Government must reach out through the Embassy and rescue them. They are in dire straits, a journalist told me over the phone.
Everyone in stay-at-home quarantine faces challenges. There will be stress and tension of close confinement, arguments will erupt and there may be violence and broken homes as a result. But the happy side for those who have lived isolated lives and are separated from family is that they will hopefully come together to talk and listen to each other and have a new family experience by sharing life stories and experiences and be united.
The other challenge of the lock-down is having the children at home all day with their parents if the parents are not in essential jobs. It is a great chance to spend quality time with the children and parents can get to know and understand and interact with them. They can do many things together: lessons, games, singing, chatting, playing music, cooking, watching movies or television together.
If isolated alone, read books. I recommend two of my own, Passion and Power, the story of my life in the Philippines, doing human rights work and fighting the sex mafia and their political backers for 46 years. A work that is still providing healing for the victims of child abuse through the Preda Foundation. If that is too heavy, try the reflective, thought-provoking novel, Ricky and Julie, an adventure story based on real events. Both are available on Amazon.com or I can send you a free copy as a gift, just send me an email.
There is a negative tragic side to the lock-down. Children who are victims of child sexual abuse by a parent or relative will be locked in the house or apartment with the abuser and will have little chance to escape and run on the streets and have no one to tell. These will be terrible times for them. Child protection agencies should open telephone hotlines where a child might be able to call for help. Preda Foundation has one: +63 9175324453.
Coronavirus challenges us to be compassionate and caring to suffering patients when sickness strikes. There is the physical pain of this dangerous flu, headaches and body pain. There is the emotional stress of not knowing if you or your parents or relatives have it, and if yes, will you or they survive? We need to let others know that love and support is there in abundance. We stand together in the face of this pandemic. It is the great leveller, the rich and the poor can get it. But the rich Filipino politicians have taken unfair privileges getting themselves tested when they had no symptoms and testing kits in short supply.
The homeless, are challenged above all. They are without family or friends, adrift on the streets, sleeping in doorways and under bridges. If they are crowded into shelters, the coronavirus will get them too. Many are already doomed. They need all the help the social services department can give.
The challenge is for slum dwellers to survive. They are the poorest and the most vulnerable. They are malnourished, have weak immune systems and cannot isolate themselves. In the teeming slums, social distancing is not possible where shacks and shanties, hovels and plastic shelters are crammed together. Many will die unknown, uncounted, until they gain herd immunity if ever.
What a challenge it is for the doctors to stay free of infection. Many have died already because they lacked protective gear. They have to decide who will live and die when there are only a few ventilators in the hospital for too many patients in desperate need of the breathing apparatus. These are heartbreaking decisions to be made. A suffering priest in Italy got a ventilator as a gift from the parishioners but he gave it to a younger patient and the good priest died. That is a self-sacrifice worthy of a saintly person.
When there is no life-saving ventilator, for some it is like a death sentence. They die alone, isolated from friends or relatives, no one can come close- such is the contagious nature of this plague because it is an incurable plague that all of modern medical science and knowledge is unable to conquer. A vaccine is far off. Yet, despite the previous similar outbreaks like Avian flu and SARS, the world did not learn, it was not ready.
Taiwan and South Korea were prepared and acted quickly to impose lock-down and made millions of testing kits and has been and is testing everyone. They have efficient epidemic control centres since the SARS. They have isolated those positive for the infection and trace all with whom they had been in contact with and quarantined them, too. It worked and has the pandemic under control. They have shown the world how to do it. Will the world take the challenge and learn that prevention is infinitely better than cure?
Written by Fr.Shay Cullen